(San Matteo della Decima 1734 - Bologna 1802)
The Heads of a Young Man and a Bearded Old Man in Profile
151 x 185 mm. (5 7/8 x 7 1/4 in.)
Characterized by the Gandolfi scholar Donatella Biago Maino as works ‘of inventive verve and confidence of handling’, these beautiful and highly finished drawings of heads by Gandolfi, some of which are signed, were probably made as autonomous works of art for sale to collectors. At the same time, however, the precise nature of the artist’s penwork made them particularly suitable for reproduction as prints, and indeed several of Gandolfi’s drawings of this sort were engraved in the 1780s by his pupil Luigi Tadolini, and published with the title Raccolta di teste pittoriche inventate e disegnate a penna dal Sig. G. Gandolfi accademico clementino ed incise in rame da Luigi Tadolini. It may be noted that Gaetano was already producing finished capricci drawings by the 1770s - to judge from a drawing of four heads, dated 1777, in the collection of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan - and he continued to do so until at least the late 1790s. Gaetano’s son Mauro Gandolfi (1764-1834) also produced several drawings of this type.
Biago Maino has suggested of these capricci drawings that they may have their origins in 18th century scientific studies of physiognomy as a means of comprehending emotional states. As she writes, ‘The classification of the expression of emotions through facial expression continued to be the subject of intense debate in the 1770s, when Gaetano produced one of his first securely dated capricci…Gandolfi’s character studies do not, of course, make any claims to offer new interpretative categories – or indeed to be anything other than elegant refined variations on a theme – but they were conceived along the general lines of these tendencies, and to satisfy a taste and fashion that were to some extent produced by these debates.’
Drawings of capricci heads by Gaetano Gandolfi are in the collections of the Uffizi in Florence, the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, the Albertina in Vienna, and elsewhere.
Jean-François Baroni, Paris, in 2003
Private collection, London.